What is it?
We like the Ford C-Max. Granted, it’s easy to question the ultimate purpose of a so-called MPV that seems to offer little over a normal hatchback other than a higher roof, but in the scheme of such things, the C-Max has always offered sprightly handling and decent running costs.
Now it gets sleeker styling, an updated dash and multimedia system, and a range of more efficient new engines including the 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol, the 1.5-litre diesel we’ve already seen in the new Focus and the 2.0-litre diesel whose power is now up from 138bhp to 148bhp.
Thing is, the compact MPV territory has changed dramatically over the past few months or so with the addition of the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer and Volkswagen Golf SV, so these updates to Ford’s offering need to give the C-Max the necessary firepower to fight its corner against newer and more upmarket competition.
What’s it like?
Whatever witchcraft Ford has been wielding in its chassis department for the past couple of decades, the spell is clearly still working. Within the modest realms of the compact MPV class, the C-Max remains the best to drive.
In fact, it handles with remarkable composure and willingness for a slightly dumpy-looking high-roofed family hatch. Swing it into a corner and you’ll enjoy decent levels of communication through the fairly precise steering, making it easy to place accurately on the road, and it gives you plenty of warning when you’re running out of grip and about to stray into some moderate understeer.
For all of its cornering ability, the C-Max has well-judged damping that softens all but the most rucked-up surfaces, and the body is kept from lolling about too heavily, so it’s perfectly comfortable even over poor roads.
The only engine we got to drive in the C-Max is the 1.5-litre Ecoboost. This particular powerplant won’t be coming to the UK, however, and that’s a shame because it’s a great engine.
It’s a refined unit and spins freely through the rev range, only getting harsh and whiny if you really run it out towards the red line, but given that only 1% of buyers in the UK bought the high-powered petrol offering on the outgoing model, it’s easy to see why Ford has decided not to bother bringing it in this time around.
Experience with the updated 148bhp 2.0 TDCi in the Grand C-Max tells us that this range-topping diesel will be a good option for those who want really good mid-range heft, albeit at the price of slightly gritty engine noise and a fraction firmer bump absorption.
Generally, even with the heavier diesel motor in the nose, the C-Max is a wieldy thing that offers the ideal compromise between enjoyable dynamics and a really well-controlled, pliant ride.
The new dash is the other really significant change to the C-Max; it’s just as much of an improvement here as it was when it first appeared in the Focus. Fewer switches make it fairly easy to find the right button to prod, and the materials and general fit and finish feel noticeably better than before.
On the mid-spec Titanium trim that we’d recommend (and that most buyers are expected to go for) you also get the 8.0in colour touchscreen included. It’s a fairly fiddly system, but add nav and you’ve got all the functions you could need on a dash that looks appreciably more upmarket than it did before.
The rest of the seat packaging hasn’t changed, so you can sit two adults comfortably, and they can even fold the central section of the 40/20/40 split bench to allow the two seats to slide back further for even more lounging room.
For major Ikea expeditions, the seats can also be removed altogether. The 432 litre boot is a good shape, but many might expect a few more tricks – a variable height floor, even – where you just get a standard squared-off boot that’ll offer only marginally better lugging ability than that of a normal family hatch.
Should I buy one?
Sure. If you really want a high-roofed hatch, whether for easier access, the slightly more flexible seating or both, the C-Max has a lot going for it. A 2.0 TDCi C-Max in Titanium trim will set you back £22,895, which is loads of money, but it is really well equipped and comparable in price to a Golf SV 2.0 TDI. It’s also cheaper than a BMW 2 series Active Tourer.
Problem is, while resale values are predicted to be better with this model than with the previous C-Max, they’re still unlikely to be as good as the Golf’s, and the interior of the VW still feels plusher. Still, if you’re willing to overlook the better financial outlook of the straight-laced Golf SV, the C-Max is as good as its rivals on most of the practicalities, and is better to drive than all of them.
Ford C-Max 1.5 Ecoboost Titanium
Location: Mallorca; On sale: August; Price na; Engine 4 cyls, 1499cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 148bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 177lb ft at 1600-4000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1394kg; Top speed 126mph; 0-62mph 9.4sec; Economy 46mpg (combined); CO2 rating & BIK tax band 139g/km, 22%
What is it?